Missing My Other Home: Fortaleza, Brazil

For those who closely know me, they also known that I am half Bahraini and half Brazilian (my mother's side). As a result, I am quite fluent in Portuguese (the language in Brazil is NOT Brazilian…) thanks to my mother (the speaking part) and kids comics I used to buy by the tons in Brazil when I was a kid (the reading and writing part). Since half my family is in Brazil, I visit my mother's hometown of Fortaleza (in the state of Ceara) every year, mostly during the summer months of June through late August. Unfortunately, due to the unrest that occurred in Bahrain and me wanting to accelerate my graduation from university, we decided to stay in Bahrain through the summer. This has taken an emotional hit, to both my mother and myself (her more than me obviously). It's catching up to me as I am about to graduate and I am not sure whether or not I will go back soon or if I will stay around in Bahrain for work. I miss my other home Fortaleza.

Fortaleza, is a city in the state of Ceara which is located in north east coast of Brazil. It is just south of the equator and as such the weather is almost the same all year around, just below the thirties (in Celsius). The trip is a bit exhaustive, regardless how you go. Unfortunately, there are no direct flights to Brazil from Bahrain, but there are flights by Emirates to Sao Paulo which is another 6 or so hours to Fortaleza. We end up going the longer but less exhausting route which is from Bahrain to UK, rest a bit, UK to Portugal and then to Fortaleza direct from Lisbon (flying TAP).

The flight leaves Lisbon in the evening, and just under 7 hours later we approach Fortaleza at night, between 7 and 8pm. On approach the plane goes along the coast and if you are lucky to get a window seat you get to see the fishermen catching nocturnal fishes, attracting them with their lights. You notice a gradual transition from nothingness to suburb and finally city as the number of lights down below start increasing. Brazilians are a happy bunch and the plane fills with cheers and claps when it touches the ground, the fun begins.

Fortaleza's airport is tiny compared to the ones in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, even though it is an international airport. As you leave the plane you don't get that hit of hot and humid weather (like when returning to Bahrain). The immigration staff, unlike those in bigger airports, are much friendlier after all you get first impressions of a country when you are at the immigration counter. In my case, when leaving the baggage claiming area I am greeted by family members which I haven't seen for at least a year (but much longer now 🙁 ). The joy is even more with my mother.

So, what is there to do in Fortaleza? For me it's mostly family, beach, distant beaches, shopping and of course different food. The beach is calm, rarely do you see strong waves. The breeze is cool and together with the sun it is just perfect, not too hot not too cold, simply warm. The sand is clean, I enjoy sticking my feet in where it is nice and cool (don't worry nothing to bite you down there :-P). The best experience is when you are under a shade at the beach, with a nice cold coconut (drinking the water out of a coconut not a glass) enjoying the view and watching time fly by with no worries clouding your mind.

If you feel like it, you can go to one of the remote beaches that are hours away from the city (like 6 hours or so by car). No urbanization will get you there, the resorts are not the lavish resorts you find in the cities. Usually you get a cabin enough for around 5 persons, with rooms, bathroom and a small television that captures whatever signal you can get. No cable, no massaging tubs, minibar snacks, room service and no Internet! Hopefully you packed a nice book to read (preferably a real book and not your e-reader, no excuses to stay in the room).

If you are lucky, you will go to a place like Beberibe, and swim at the mouth of the river, where the river meets the sea. The fish caught at the point between the river and the sea are delicious!

Here is another beautiful picture from one of the resorts mentioned above. The lake like body of water is actually a natural lake, right at the border with the sea. Amazing!

Back in the city of Fortaleza, we would go out almost every day for lunch outside. Afterall the I only get to taste real Brazilian cuisine only once a year. My favorite restaurants are along the coast where you get to eat amazingly tasty food. I love the seafood dishes some of them being: bolinha de peixe, peixada and peixe a delicia (my favorite). I'm not much of a clubbing, night life kind of person, so one evening I visit the cultural center known as Dragao do Mar (literally translated as Dragon of the Sea). If you ever wanted to learn about our culture that is one of the places to go. The area around the center is large and there are many open spaces where they occasionally hold cultural events, from music, to dances, fairs and lots of other events. There is also a planetarium for those who want to discover the mysteries of the universe.

Luckily, one of the city's best pizzeria is located right next to the center, in an area with colorful buildings built with the past in mind. There is no comparison of a real traditionally made pizza to those sold by franchises like Pizza Hut etc… 

We've got malls, many, many malls just like Bahrain (although most are full in comparison to the ones here…). Thanks to the exchange rate and the majority of stuff being made locally (much lower taxes than imported goods), tourists can get a bargain on everything from clothing to slippers (not any, but Havainas that apparently sell for almost $50 in the US, common footwear in Brazil :-p).

Before you know it, time flies and it's time to return home… The plane takes off, and you see what you've seen on arrival again but in reverse, nice memories fill my mind. I miss Fortaleza again…


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